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BBNBA: Murray, Davis shine in Game 4 as Nuggets go down 3-1 once again

(Jesse D. Garrabrant | NBAE via Getty Images)

(Jesse D. Garrabrant | NBAE via Getty Images)

Good afternoon, folks. The Nuggets have the Lakers exactly where they want them… Let’s talk NBA Bubble.

RECAP

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS GAME 4 – LAL leads 3-1

Well, we called it: the Denver Nuggets are down 3-1 for the third series in a row these playoffs.

The Nuggets had an opportunity to leave with a tied series but fall back into all too familiar territory after a 114-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4. Here’s how we got here.

Jamal Murray and Anthony Davis both burst out of the starting gates for their respective teams, combining for 26 first-quarter points between the two. Murray popped off with 12 points for the Nuggets while Davis poured in the first 10 points for his Los Angeles Lakers and finished with 14 for the period. L.A. head coach Frank Vogel decided to switch up his starting lineup, swapping out JaVale McGee for Dwight Howard, who has had success this series by annoying the living hell out of Nikola Jokic. Howard went to work early, posting 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half as the Lakers beat Denver on the glass for the night, 41-33, while also limiting Jokic to just 16 points on a 6-13 shooting clip as he dealt with some foul trouble.

Even though the Nuggets were shooting a lights out 59 percent during the entire first half, the Lakers outscored them 19-2 in second-chance points. Murray started the game shooting 7-8 from the floor, but Davis and LeBron James recorded 33 first-half points as a duo, pushing the Lakers to a 60-55 lead at the intermission. Two of Murray’s brilliant 16 first-half points came courtesy of this Michael Jordan-esque up-and-under layup that he somehow spun off the backboard thanks to insane luck and/or black magic.

He did this OVER LeBron James, mind you. You and I are not the same type of human that Jamal Murray is.

Despite their massive height advantage, the Lakers struggled to keep Denver off of the glass in Game 3. A glaring reason for that problem was the two rebounds from Anthony Davis. The insertion of Dwight Howard in Game 4 provided a rebounding spark for L.A., but Davis was still rather ineffective on the boards for the second game in a row. He ultimately finished with five rebounds but recorded none through the entire first half. Howard hogging the lane definitely had something to do with Davis’ lack of rebounds in the first 24 minutes of action, and the former Wildcat had more freedom with Howard off the floor in the second half, resulting in the five extra boards. However, seven total rebounds in two playoff games from a 6-foot-10 big man is unacceptable; Davis has to be more aggressive in that are going forward.

The Lakers were on the brink of breaking the game wide open and running away with the win during stretches of the third quarter. They were able to extend their lead to double-digits on a couple of occasions, but a pair of important triples from Denver’s Michael Porter Jr.–one coming right before the third-quarter buzzer via a Murray assist–kept things tight. The Nuggets trailed 87-84 heading into the final period.

But then they went cold. Denver shot just 33 percent in the final quarter (7-21) and were 1-6 from beyond the arc. Murray’s 10 points in the fourth were critical but he received little help from his teammates. Davis added 10 points of his own for the Lakers, who never allowed the Nuggets to get closer than a three-point deficit in the fourth. L.A. would ultimately seal the win with some Davis free-throws. Murray’s night concluded with 32 points on 12-20 shooting in addition to three rebounds and eight assists in 45 minutes. Davis recorded 34 points on an impressive shooting clip of 10-15 in 43 minutes played.

Rajon Rondo continues to rise up the NBA’s all-time career playoff assist list, moving past Scottie Pippen on Thursday for eighth all-time after passing Kobe Bryant in Game 3. The former Wildcat finished with 11 points, five rebounds, seven assists, and just one turnover in Game 4 for the Lakers. Rondo now has 1,049 career assists in the postseason and could feasibly move as high as sixth in the history books by the time the playoffs conclude.

Alright, Denver. You’re down 3-1 once again. You know the drill. Let’s make this a series, shall we?

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Anthony Davis (LAL)114-108 W @ DEN3410-15 (1-3)53303+140
Jamal Murray (DEN)108-114 L vs. LAL3212-20 (0-3)38014-845
Rajon Rondo (LAL)114-108 W @ DEN114-6 (1-1)57001-921

TONIGHT’S PREVIEW

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS GAME 5 – MIA leads 3-1

8:30 (ESPN): [5] Heat (Adebayo, Herro) @ [3] Celtics (Kanter)

A five-seed has never made it to an NBA Finals in league history, no matter the conference they play in. The Miami Heat are one win away from breaking the trend and could become the first fifth-seed or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the 1999 New York Knicks. All that stands in their way is one more victory over the Boston Celtics.

Tyler Herro was an absolute beast in Game 4, exploding for a career-high 37 points with 17 of them coming during the fourth quarter. The Heat rookie broke plenty of records in the process and helped steer Miami to a critical 112-109 win and a commanding series advantage. Bam Adebayo complemented Herro to the tune of 20 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists, helping stave off a late rally from Boston. In reality, this series could be much closer than it appears on paper. Through four games, both teams have scored 441 points; Miami has just seemingly been in the right place at the right time. They consistently make more big plays. Turnovers have devastated the Celtics, particularly in the previous two outings.

If you were worried about the health status of Adebayo following an apparent wrist injury late in Game 4, he is reportedly ready to go for Game 5. While no one outside of the team knows exactly what happened to create the injury, Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press reported that he initially hurt the wrist in Game 3 and reaggravated it near the end of Game 4. Adebayo was in clear pain during the closing minutes of Wednesday night’s win but stayed on the floor anyways. Miami will desperately need him to potentially close this series out.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR